The Dryanuary movement has become a routine part of ringing in a new year for some, but there’s another initiative, Tryanuary, that encourages drinkers to try something new and support local businesses and pubs. While I certainly try to curtail my drinking in January, I’m a follower of the latter approach; I don’t want to eliminate my social life by avoiding drinking, so instead I make a point of drinking better – in both smaller measures and more audaciously. And in the theme of discovery, this month’s My Vitibox gives a lesson in something crucial to selecting a new wine that’s worth drinking: how to read a wine label.
French wines in particular are renowned for boasting convoluted qualities of their labels, which can be bamboozling for consumers who aren’t trained sommeliers. Certain words carry great meaning while others don’t necessarily – this is highlighted in January’s My Vitibox booklet. There are many things to decipher, including appellations, expressions and statements. Classic appellations are good to begin with, but drinkers who are familiar with the most eminent styles should experiment with more original appellations. And there’s a trick with vintages as well: poor vintages from great vineyards are likely still an excellent choice at a reduced price, and it’s a good idea to experiment with unknown more unorthodox winemakers in a good vintage. Also, drinkers shouldn’t fear the statement that a wine contains sulphates on the label – all wines naturally do and this is merely a legal requirement.
So with that education, I was ready to attack My Vitibox offerings: two bottles tucked away in their cardboard carrier box and nesting in a bed of straw. The packaging is designed to be smash proof and is one of the most exciting things that can arrive in the post; a monthly wine delivery takes the fuss out of making potentially poor decisions when pressed for time at my local offie.
My Vitibox: December 2016
- 1 bottle of Vignes du Prieuré (Château Gigognan, 2014)
- 1 bottle of Mas des Montagnes (Maison Lorgeril, 2014)
- 1 information booklet
The first bottle, Vignes du Prieuré, hails from the Rhône Valley and is a blend of mouvèdre, grenache, syrah and carignan grapes, which indicates that this might be a very characterful wine with a nice bouquet of flavours. When poured in the glass, this red shines a regal purplish hue with a clear intensity, indicating that it will be a light and fresh wine on the palate. The aromas jumping from the glass are bold, including whiffs of juicy fruit and a bit of woody earthiness. Finally, taking the plunge, this wine attacks the palate with slight sweetness and a velvety mouthfeel. It’s intensely drinkable and has some nice fruit characteristics in the drinking. I found this immensely drinkable, envisioning an apt marriage with a berry-laden dessert.
Following this, the Mas des Montagnes shares some qualities of the Vignes du Prieuré, which is no surprise as it’s also made from a blend of grenache, syrah and carignan grapes. This terroir is located in the mountains, however, which results in some exceptionally fresh and delicate vines. It pours a ruby red, boasting the same shimmer as the previous bottle in the glass. The aromas are just as lively as well, but instead of red fruits, the Mas des Montagnes yields blackcurrants and some spicy pepper on the nose. On the palate, it exhibits a dry and lingering quality with a hint of acidity in the finish. I enjoyed the creamy texture particularly. As suggested by the My Vitibox food pairings, this wine was made for a blueberry pie or a blackberry crumble.
This month’s Vitibox presented two bold reds that – although similar in their makeup – exhibited very dissimilar characteristics. Although varied, both were delicious. This is exactly what the Tryanuary spirit condones: discovery of something new that can be enjoyed and savoured. Although not enjoyed in my local independent pub – which would make this an even better experience – it reminds me that I can be more adventurous than the house red or white the next time that I am. Debunking the jargon associated with wine really bolsters my confidence in making my own selection.
There are two subscription options available from My Vitibox: The Colours & Flavours subscription, which includes two bottles a month to pair with food from £20 (plus £5 shipping), and the Red Passion subscription, which includes two bottles of reds selected by Alain Gousse and Le Figaro from £30 (plus £5 shipping). These options are also available as gift subscriptions and would make a great present for anyone who either enjoys discovering wine or merely enjoys having a glass of something hand selected by an expert.
Thanks to My Vitibox, my Tryanuary has become much more easier than planned.